Prescription Drugs

Prescription abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in this country. In fact, coming in third place, after marijuana and alcohol, it is the most commonly abused substance. Roughly something like 52 million Americans have used prescription drugs for the sake of getting high at least one time in their life (a majority of these cases are young people, a fact which seems to make this statistic even a little more dire).

A majority of medications have psychoactive properties, which basically means they’re mind-altering. These medications are abused in the way that they’re either taken in excess, or for reasons that go beyond medication, or taken without a prescription. In other words, these people abusing said medications aren’t following doctor’s orders, if they even have a doctor prescribing them the drug to begin with at all.

Addiction to these prescription drugs has got to be the most insidious, as not only are they legal, (given that the person has a prescription), but they fall under the class of medication. This makes them seem less potentially harmful, as the people abusing the drug know that these particular drugs have been somewhat chemically regulated in a sense. However, the dangerous part is the fact that they aren’t being taken in the prescribed doses, or sometimes the person who’s taking them isn’t even prescribed at all. Therefore, this is a drug aberration from the proper and necessitated use. So, a myriad of problems are bound to follow in a predicament like this (side effects, long-term effects, etc).

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The commonly abused drugs of the prescription variety are:

  1. Opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin
  2. Central Nervous System Depressants such as Valium and Xanax
  3. Central Nervous System Stimulants like Adderall and Dexedrine.

The abuse and misuse of these types of drugs is rising pretty high in popularity, particularly with today’s youth. For example, The National Institute on Drug Abuse did a survey where they found that, in 2010, 1 in 12 high school senior students had reported past-year abuse of Vicodin and 1 in 20 reported past-year abuse of OxyContin.

Opiate Drugs

The reckless approach toward Vicodin and/or OxyContin in terms of partying by high school students is an issue of legitimate concern, as this has the potential to be a fatal combination when taking into consideration that these drugs were solely created for medical purposes. These statistics are proof of one underlying problem, and that is the widespread notion among these kids that prescription drugs are somehow safer to abuse than the illegal street drugs. The ignorance in regards to this has lead to a staggering increase in opioid related deaths (unintentional overdoses), which are four times as much as those in 1999. Prescription drugs seem to stand almost side by side with street killers such as heroin and cocaine.

The only difference is the unspoken agreement that the prescription ones are somehow “less harmful”. This couldn’t be less true when looking at the increase in treatment admissions, emergency room visits and overdoses all associated with said “less harmful” drugs. These types of drugs in relation to abuse should fall under the same type of focus as street drugs like heroin, meth and cocaine. With statistics almost no different, they remain a lingering threat that only seems to viciously grow over time.

Effects of Prescription Drugs

While addiction is one of many dangerous effects from abusing these particular drugs, let’s look at a few other effects.

Effects of Opiates

With opiates, for example, when somebody who is addicted tries to quit using they can experience a lot of pain. This is due to the fact that the body, having used the opiate drug as a crutch so to speak, can no longer manage pain naturally. Some withdrawal effects from opiate type drugs are nausea, stomach cramping, bone and muscle pain, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, seizures, spiked fevers, etc. Some effects while taking the drug are decrease in emotional well being, memory problems, delusions, seizures, insomnia, exhaustion, muscle spasms, withdrawn, depression, mood swings, acting irresponsible, etc.

Effects of Depressants

One negative effect of central nervous system depressants is that, because the way they work is pretty much slowing the brain’s activity, when the person abruptly stops taking them (often with teens who abuse it at a party or similar situations) they can experience a backfiring effect where they can get seizures or other harmful repercussions can result. These types of drugs (central nervous system depressants) can be very harmful when combined with alcohol. The results can be affected heart rhythm, slow respiration and death. So you can see how abuse of these are at a high risk.

Xanax in particular has some long-term effects such as memory impairment as well as blacking out. Abuse of Xanax, as well as these other central nervous system depressants, is associated with depression, psychotic experiences, aggressive and impulsive behavior, delirious states and cognitive deficits.

Effects of Stimulants

Additionally, central nervous system stimulants such as Adderall and Dexedrine are attached to their own set of unique effects, which are negative to say the least. It should definitely be mentioned, while we’re talking in terms of abuse, that the abuse of Adderall greatly increases the chances of getting specific side effects. These specific side effects are nervousness, restlessness, uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body, headaches, sleeping issues, having a rough time staying asleep, nausea, stomach pain, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss. Some of these side effects can be severe, such as seizures, numbness, hallucinations, mania, paranoia, aggressive behavior and verbal or motor tics. In retrospect, it’s safe to say that pretty much all of the effects of these drugs mentioned in this article are of a severe nature.

Dexedrine abuse symptoms are irritability, hallucinations, nausea, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure, compulsive behavior, constipation or diarrhea and weight loss. It is also linked to heightened anxiety or depression, an increase in mood swings, paranoia and psychosis. Withdrawal from Dexedrine includes seizures, violent outbursts (which can be dangerous for themselves or other people involved), psychotic reactions and confusion.

Growing Abuse Statistics

The distorted perception of prescription drugs is clearly reflected in the fast growing statistics having to do with the urgent addiction of an especially younger crowd in this country. It wouldn’t necessarily be an exaggeration to say that, predictably so, prescription drug abuse will outnumber drugs like heroin, meth, cocaine and Molly (ecstasy). What’s worse is the atmosphere in which these drugs are abused can markedly increase the risk of seizures, coma or death. This has to do with the fact that a decent percentage of these high school kids abusing prescription meds will be doing so at the same time that they’re drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

All these drugs, when abused, have a string of horrible effects attached to them. The consequences, which become a burdensome pile which can take a lot to overcome. It can take someone up to years to get their health and life back on track depending on how intense their addiction was. The good news is that support in the form of rehab clinics throughout the world are available for drug addiction treatment. As long as the addict has a support system and people backing them up, it can make the road to recovery a much easier one.

By Erica D'Arcangelo